Category Archives: aging

Speechless

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Silence by Ket Quang via Freeimages

It is the bane of every writer to lose their words. Writer’s block is really a thing and it can be a very scary thing indeed. Being a fledgling writer myself, I am slowly trying to trust the process. But every time I publish a blog post, something that feels akin to giving birth, I feel purged and I panic that I won’t ever have another thing to write about. Writer’s resources suggest a myriad of ways to nudge the writing process. Use a prompt. Write something every day at the same time. Put ideas on paper without judging what is happening. All good advice to be sure but none of them fully assuage the fear that a coherent set sentences may never come to me again. In other words, I will be speechless.

It’s not as though words have flowed freely in every situation in my life. I was speechless both times I gave birth, first to my son and a few years later to my daughter and held them each for the first time. Words failed me when I witnessed my son marrying his long time sweetheart. My throat closed up when I was told of my cancer diagnosis. I was tongue tied when I shook Bruce Springsteen’s hand although I did manage a grin when we took a photo together. But when I had to be Momma Bear or step up to something I felt was unjust I have had no problem voicing my concerns.

As a parent, I felt that one of the greatest gifts I could give my children was permission to speak up and advocate for themselves. I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s when a common adult adage was that children should be seen and not heard. Early on I was given the impression that what I had to say was not as important as what I should be listening to and what I was listening to was that my voice had less power than others did. I don’t blame my parents because at my current age I can fully appreciate that they were doing the best with what they knew and with the information they were raised with. It was ultimately up to me to find my own voice and I confess I am still finding it. During their younger years I constantly advocated for my children because they had yet to find their voices. Even when they did I still felt it was my duty to speak for them until one day they both assured me they could speak for themselves. That day was bittersweet to be sure. I was happy they felt strong and confident to say and do what they had to do. But a large piece of my parenting duties had to be put to rest.

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Speech Bubble by Prawny via Pixabay

When I consider the courage and power it takes to raise one’s voice, I must admit it is an interesting time in history right now. People are finding their voices about so many things that have been silenced for such a long time. Sexual assault. Racial profiling. Religious persecution. People of every age, gender and race are speaking out about things that happened to them yesterday or last year or last decade. The power of speaking out is overriding the fear of being shamed for the secret itself. Ironically, the thing that can render you speechless can also free you once you tell it. None of us could have ever imagined what has been kept quiet for so long. Each day the news brings more and more to light. A troubled young man with a criminal past obtains an assault weapon and enters a church with murderous intent. Speechless. A famous movie producer abuses countless women using his power to make or break their professional careers to get what he wants. Speechless. Politicians and religious leaders and movie stars prey on young girls and boys. There are no words.

I heard a woman speak at a recent empowerment event I attended. She said “a closed mouth does not get fed”. That statement was so profound I have not been able to forget it. Not only does it mean the obvious, that we cannot feed our bodies if we keep our mouths closed but that our spirits too suffer if we do not speak out on the things that hurt or demean us. I truly believe the best gift you can give a person is permission to speak their truth. Do words get corrupted? Yes. Are voices used for evil as well as good? No doubt about it. And yet the worst thing is the silence, the belief that one’s voice doesn’t matter or their story is worthless. They are rendered speechless.

Each day new stories are coming to light as men and women come forward to speak. It’s overwhelming, the scope and depth of the revelations. But it is also an enlightening and empowering time. Time to change the narrative. Time to change the balance of power where the demeaned and disenfranchised are allowed to speak and be heard.  Time to listen.

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Shout by macmao via Pixabay

 

Halloween

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Guardian of Paris by Debbie Klosowski

I have a confession to make. I love Halloween. I have always loved Halloween and becoming an adult has not changed that love one iota. As soon as the season changes to autumn, the pumpkins come out. The orange lights grace my bushes, the funny and not so funny witch faces appear on walls and shelves, vampires and ghosts start to populate my front porch and my piano. I think up costumes for the year because yes I have to be in costume every Halloween. It just is.

When I was young, Halloween was about all of those things but also about the candy. We lived in a very small town in northern Canada in the 60’s and my younger brother and I would roam the town the entire evening stopping at every house holding out our pillowcases until they were so full we had to go home or we would never get the haul back to the house. The next hours (or days) were spent sorting out all of the candy we had gathered and rejoicing. We were good until Christmas! In later years I was delegated to taking my younger sisters out to trick or treat but that did not diminish the love I had for knocking on a door and having treats handed out to us. Or to admire all of the creative costumes people had come up with. There didn’t seem to be real monsters at that time. There was no fear of razor blades in apples or tainted candy. There just wasn’t.

As a young adult, Halloween was always party time. Costumes got more elaborate and fun to imagine. I spent one Halloween in a long red velvet dress, both it and my face covered in soot, convincing everyone I was Scarlett O’Hara after the burning of Atlanta. My southern accent seemed authentic enough but the joy of hiding behind a character was the real thrill. So it is with Halloween. It is the chance to become something other then we are and have fun with it. It’s also a time to scare ourselves with delicious thrills. People can dress or become the most fearful aspects of human nature and still be accepted. Creepy masks and ugly depictions of horror seem to thrill and excite everyone. Perhaps because on every other day of the year these things are taboo. In recent years my Halloween alter ego has been variations of a witch. Maybe I am embracing the crone stage of life but it is more likely that the wish to have some sort of control over events even for a day encourages this magical thinking.

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Waiting for Halloween by Debbie Klosowski

Although Halloween is the time to embrace such things, the truth is we all wear masks. We all have a secret self that we hide from the world. Most of the time that is how we negotiate ourselves through this human experience. It reminds me of the message of that iconic song by The Police “Spirits in the Material World”. We are all trying to navigate this messy, lovely existence the best way we can. But there is no doubt that monsters dwell among us wearing masks that sometimes slip to show their real nature. Mass murderers. Rapists. Predators. Arsonists. Racists. It’s as though something has been pulled back and ugly things are crawling out of the mud to come to light once again. The drawn curtain is revealing our scariest selves. The public masks have been peeled back to reveal the true face of darkness and it is not pretty.

As scary as this all is, perhaps we should recognize an opportunity when we see one.  Maybe it’s time to face the ugly side of human nature and try to heal these fissures. Perhaps we have been a bit complacent in the past years thinking that things like racism, sexism and discrimination of all sorts in the workplace, in our community and in our social group were eradicated or it was easier to look the other way or brush off bad behavior as normal when really they were just waiting for the right time to rear up again. Now is that time. Now is the time to really dig deep to decide what each of us believes to be good and true. But it will not be easy. It takes faith and conviction and a whole lot of courage. If we celebrate Halloween just to scare ourselves well we have much more work to fight the demons then just that one day. This year I don’t see the masks and the costumes disappearing on November 1st. It’s not just make believe anymore.

Fast forward 50 years from that small town in the 60’s and I am still trying to figure out what my Halloween costume will be this year. There seems to be such an array to chose from but in reality I know it will reflect some secret part of myself. Warrior Princess Leia from Star Wars? Anne Boleyn still trying to hold onto her head? Esmeralda dancing on the steps of Notre Dame? I have been all of those and more. It’s going to take some time to think about the face I want to show the world this October 31st. I can’t wait to see what comes out.

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Homestead

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Photo by Bluesnap via Pixabay

Home is where the heart is. And your clothes and books and all the other stuff that represents your life. It’s the place you display your memories and photos of loved ones. It has artwork and projects and pictures of your children at every age. It’s also where your spouse might live and where your children might have grown and flown the nest. Home can be a house, or an apartment or any place you feel safe to lay your head. Home is the people in it and not the structure itself. It is the nest that you feather, your peaceful oasis in the busyness of the world. Dorothy, at the end of her adventures in The Wizard of Oz, reminded us that there is no place like it. Yes, a home is definitely one’s castle.

However, the thing about a home is that you have to keep it up or it will fall around you without a moment’s notice. The past 6 months our aging home has protested some of its aging elements. The oil tank decided it had had enough and leaked oil as it brought in water. The water tank also decided enough was enough and just leaked. The old furnace we had replaced two years ago had left years of residue along the walls of the house and a fine layer of black dust over everything. The chimney leak finally was resolved so we were able to look to the other things in need. So a home, like a heart, demands care and attention.

After much planning (and after upgrading the aforementioned tanks) our summer staycation took the form of the interior house finally getting painted. We chose a bright, clean white color to offset all of those picture frames, masks and other mementos we have collected over the years that have sat on our walls and collected that same fine dark dust. Over two days we slowly removed all of those items, each one a memory we mused over and had a toast to and there were some things we couldn’t ever remember acquiring. With everything off the walls and furniture moved out of the way, our small abode looked quite a bit larger. It was time for the painter to do his magic.

There is no doubt that painting an entire house is a job best left to the professionals. Although our cat protested to being locked in a bedroom with food and litter, he was no doubt relieved not to be in the way of a man with a ladder, paint brushes and a definite mission. The project took more than a week during which time we marveled daily how incredible the house looked as each wall emerged from its formerly dingy and dark demeanor. Finally the last of the plastic coverings and paint cans were removed and it was our turn to put the house back together again.

homestead-149897_1280The one thing about doing any upgrade in your house is the unexpected things that get uncovered along the way. The dust and dirt under the rugs that had been rolled up and put out of the way had harbored the equivalent of an entire child’s sandbox. They had to be put out to sit in the sun and shaken until the accumulated dirt fell away. Wood floor cleaning was the next order of business as was hand cleaning all of the glass on the picture frames which had their own layers of black soot. It was the perfect opportunity to store some of those items that had sat on every available surface away and minimize the number of things hung on the wall so that we could enjoy our beautifully fresh new walls.

But as often happens, one change usually leads to another. My husband took the bathroom cabinet doors out to paint and the bathroom looks fresher now.  Closets and shoes were picked through and things discarded. The garage got a clean out. Even the windfall under the apple tree was cleared away. And now almost 3 weeks later we are significantly lighter and cleaner. The house feels as though it has taken a huge cleansing breath and let it go but of course it was really us.

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Photo by Dimitrisvetsikos1969 via Pixabay

Change and letting go are not easy things to encounter. As humans we feel more comfort in familiar things and it’s easier to stay the same then to make the change. But once we do make that shift we can feel it in our bodies and minds. This upgrade has definitely lifted our spirits and cleansed our souls. Coming into the house feels like a different space now although just a month ago it was the beloved albeit dingy home we gratefully ended our day in. But showing love to our environment means showing ourselves the love. It’s taken me a long time to accept that change is good but I have to be the one to initiate it. Our home most certainly agrees with me there.